This morning I arrived in Tempe, Arizona to watch my beloved Texas Longhorns play in a meaningless Fiesta Bowl game tomorrow. This after being robbed by the BCS, which chose OU to go to the National Title Game, despite the fact that Texas beat OU 45-35 on a neutral field this season. There is no justice in college football...but I digress.
As we pulled into the outskirts of Phoenix, we stopped at a parking lot to fix some items that had shifted during the IH 10 trek across 3 states. When we got out of the RV I was amazed to see a business in the parking lot entitled "Why Pay a Lawyer?" The exterior glass pane store front of the business offered a variety of legal services that one would assume clearly require an attorney. Among the "services offered" were "business transactions" and even "litigation."
As I expressed astonishment that a non-lawyer could perform such acts -- which clearly constitute the practice of law -- my friends were quick to point out that the business doesn't ask "why use a lawyer" but instead, why pay a lawyer? I wasn't nearly as amused as they were...
But my curiousity was piqued. How could this be legal in Arizona? Is the State Bar of Arizona that much more lax than the Texas Bar? Was law school a complete waste of time and money for Arizona lawyers? I had to find out...
After just a minute on Google, I found the truth. Arizona's "Why Buy a Lawyer?" enterprise is highly illegal, and the source of lots of problems for its owner, Richard S. Berry. According to a 2006 Order of the Supreme Court of Arizona, Mr. Berry is a former attorney who was disbarred in 1977 (yes 32 years ago). The Order proclaims that Mr. Berry -- operating by and through "Why Pay A Lawyer?" -- has violated his Order of Disbarment, and continues to engage in the practice of law illegally. Even though his storefronts remain, the terms of the Order have effectively shut the operation down. For that, I am happy.
As I have written about before, hiring a lawyer is not an option where important legal matters are concerned -- in Texas or elsewhere...even Arizona. So while Mr. Berry cannot "negotiate the legal rights and responsibilities of others" or "represent others in judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings," we licensed and regulated attorneys can.
And to answer Mr. Berry's question, you should hire a lawyer to advise and counsel you in matters which are foreign to you, but routine to an experienced lawyer. You should no more let a "non-lawyer" handle your important legal matters than you would let a "non-doctor" diagnose your illness or perform surgery. This is simply unthinkable. One of Mr. Berry's former clients found this out the hard way. Here is his story -- straight from the "Rip-Off Report":
We didn't save a dime; actually, we lost even more than our money. We have lost our property to foreclosure, and lost our Bankruptcy case in the end. Mr. Berry will not accept our phone calls and is always 'in with a client' when we stop by in person. We have since hired an attorney who is handling our case, and we found out that Mr. Berry has been advising us according to old laws, which explains why things went as they did. Our advice: Don't spend your money here; spend a bit more and get a competent attorney who can represent you. If we had done that in the first place, we wouldn't have suffered the losses that we did.
Trey Wilson is a licensed lawyer in San Antonio, Texas. He is offended by "do-it-yourslef" legal programs found on-line and elsewhere. He will sleep better tonight knowing that the Arizona State Bar has disposed of "Why Pay A Lawyer?"